Hello my blog peeps!
Sorry I haven’t posted for a month, I’m gearing up. The ideas are in the brain but for those of you who do not know, I was diagnosed with breast cancer in March of this year. In April I had a mastectomy, in May I had a Powerport put in, and began chemo. I finished chemo at the end of the summer and had a hysterectomy in October. Last week I had the first part of breast reconstruction surgery. All this to say that the past month has been a little tricky as far as movement. Right now my left arm is stuck by my side like a T-Rex and if I lean forward I can feel the expander and it hurts. I did not realize that the tissue expander that they put in is not just under the skin but that the doctor cuts the muscle from the chest wall and puts the expander behind and under the muscle. Now I know why the brave women before me warned that this is the most painful part of the surgeries. They are right. But life could be much worse so I’m not looking for pity here. I’m a recovering cancer patient, I shall be an overcomer!
Not everyone has that happy ending and cancer can be very lonely. During chemo you are more likely to die than during surgeries. You have no immune system and the slightest cold can mean hospitalization and horrible things for you. Folks without cancer sneeze or cough and when you get concerned they wave your worry away with “Oh, it’s just allergies“. They are not always right. A fever of 100.5 Fahrenheit requires you to call your oncologist. You can’t join in big group activities (football game get-togethers, street fairs, parties, etc.) because it is that serious. I was in the infusion room one day when an older woman came in upset because her grandchild was brought by and the 4 month old had a cold and made Grandma sick. There is the option of wearing a paper mask. This has the effect of making others back away as if you have Ebola, LOL I will admit to adding a fake cough a couple of times when people acted rudely because of my mask. Wrong, I know, but it was fun. The other thing is, do you really want to trust your life to a thin piece of paper over your nose and mouth?
It will sound strange but cancer has been a blessing. I’ve met people who have shared their stories with me and we’ve become closer. Or sometimes they have said something that was just the right thing that I needed to hear at that moment. Cancer can also surprise you in the way people react. Those who you think are close and will be supportive sometimes become distant. I finally had someone privately message me that they were sorry they weren’t contacting me since my diagnosis but they didn’t know what to say. Do you know what to say to a friend or family member with cancer? The same things you used to say. You don’t need to talk about the cancer. In fact, people always wanting you to talk about it or asking how you are makes you think about it more. There were days I just didn’t answer the phone because I was tired of repeating how chemo went, discussing the
shots, etc. But don’t back away. Just be there. Come over and watch a silly movie or stop by and just chat about everything else in the world. Be honest and admit you don’t know what to say, that’s fine. What hurts is silence and absence from those you never thought would disappear. There is one other thing that I should not have to say, but unfortunately I experienced this so many times that I must. I went from thinking the first person that did it was an unthinking idiot to wondering what is wrong with people, and it is this: DO NOT EVER share stories of others you have known who had cancer and then died from it. That is the last thing we want to hear and why would you ever repeat that to someone who you must realize is worried about death. Because whether you are stage I or stage IV that worry is still there.
Cancer is also an opportunity. It forces you to slow down, forces you to rest, forces you to be still and think. For me it’s brought me closer to God. Sounds odd because some people get angry at God when they are diagnosed. I looked at it this way – everyone gets something bad in this life. It can be an abusive relationship, financial ruin, death of a loved one (worst of all the death of a child), a horrible divorce, etc. No matter what, we all get at least one bad thing that we must go through. My bad thing is cancer. So I was not angry and I prayed and read, and it brought me closer to God. But each person is different. It also forces you to prioritize your life. That on again/off again relationship you’ve had, guess what? After cancer it will probably remain off because when you are forced to face your mortality and realize that this time on earth is short, you will begin to realize that you are here to be happy, to love and be loved, to help others, and you won’t accept less from others. I’ve decided to go to grad school in a completely new and unexpected direction. Before cancer I would have thought “Ah, I’m 52 now, it’s too late.” Now I say “I’m only 52 and I haven’t fought this hard to be well only to exist. I’m going to do something I love and make the world a little bit better if I can, and I’m going to try to be a better person.” Not just cancer but anything that shakes your life to the core will bring you to this point. It’s a great opportunity to make sure that you are the you that you want to be (that sounds very Dr. Seuss-ish, LOL) doing what makes you happy and surrounding yourself with people you love.
My final four thoughts and that is all that they are, my own thoughts, so take them or leave them: